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The secret productivity hack of Fortune 500 CEOs, world champion athletes and self-made billionaires

By on July 31, 2022 0
rachel revilla illustration

Artwork by Rachel Revilla

If you master it, you can be sure that you will maximize your chances of reaching your full potential as a business leader, regardless of field, profession or industry. And if you own or run a business, you’ll be sure to maximize your positive impact on your business as well.

If you don’t, you can work as hard as you want, but a lot of the time and energy you invest can be wasted. Improvements to your productivity will only happen by accident, not by design. Worse still, you may find yourself in a situation where everything you do feels like an uphill battle. In addition, your lack of productivity will negatively influence your teams, your collaborators and the productivity of your company.

In my work as a “mentor to the giants” (Fortune), as an advisor to the presidents of some of the world’s largest corporations, as a coach and consultant to top Fortune 500 CEOs, and even world champion athletes, there is one thing they all habitually do, every day: they have routines, rituals and checklists that they are constantly improving to optimize their performance.

What gets measured gets done

Every pilot has a take-off checklist, even if they have flown airplanes for over 25 years. As a business owner, you need to have a checklist for everything that is important to you, that you want to optimize, and that you do more than once. Examples: team meetings, board meetings, client negotiations, planning meetings (even weekly ones), presentations, speeches, etc.

In my consulting work with some of the world’s most famous brands and companies, I have seen time and time again how much time is wasted because there are no clear processes, no checklists clear controls and no clear routines in place for activities that owners and senior managers do every day. They may have clearly defined guidelines for annual planning and budget meetings, but these only happen once a year at most companies.

You need a checklist and routine for everything important to your business so you can optimize it. This is true for your business and for yourself.

Let me use myself as an example. I have routines and checklists for every client meeting, every call, every speech I give, every negotiation, every client project, every team meeting, every CEO or business owner I coach and consult for . At my consulting business, we have checklists and performance routines for every project. While every client is unique, every business is unique, and therefore each of the solutions we create for our clients is unique, my team and I could not deliver the kind of extraordinary results that we consistently produce for our clients if we we didn’t. have clearly defined processes on how to solve our clients’ complex challenges and empower them to achieve their goals.


When I was coaching a world-renowned athlete before his new world record attempt, I reviewed his routines, rituals, and processes that he went through before each competition. Then we optimized them together. The new world record he subsequently set is still undefeated.

Most of us are familiar with the Japanese term “kaizen,” which means continuous improvement. However, for most companies, this is just an empty phrase. They don’t really know how to implement it in practice. The solution: checklists and routines.

True satisfaction comes from continuous improvement. That feeling you get when you push your limits, when you push the boundaries of what you thought was possible, both for you and for your business, that process never ends.

Your two most important routines of the day

These are your evening routine and your morning routine. Although they have nothing directly to do with your business or professional life, they are the foundation for your peak performance throughout the day.

Every high achiever I have had the pleasure of working, coaching and advising with uses their own individual morning and evening routines to ensure they perform at their best when they are the more under pressure.

Start by writing down everything you think will be useful to end the current day and prepare for the next day (the evening routine), and to start your day with the right state of mind and energy (your morning routine ).

However, I encourage you to surf the web and see how other high achievers use their morning and evening routines to inspire you. But beware: your routines must be unique for them to work best. You can copy and imitate at first to try out other people’s routines, but then it’s up to you to create your own to fit like a glove.

Take me, for example. I review my goals every night and every morning. I also review my ideal vision of what I want my life to be in 10 to 15 years, in all its aspects (I talk about this at length in my book “Nothing is impossible”). In the evening, I review some of my greatest successes, the learnings of the day, and my top three priorities for the next day. In the morning, I do yoga breathing exercises and take a cold shower or a quick swim to prepare my body for the day. Teach this secret to others

I encourage you to teach the best members of your team, your employees, your board of directors, etc. that secret of putting routines and checklists in place to determine where they need to be at their best so that it takes root in your company culture. You will be surprised at how productivity and happiness will skyrocket. If you have kids, teach them the “checklist” habit as early as possible.

3 easy steps to get started

1. Take 3 minutes to identify an area or activity that you want to improve that is vital to the success of your business.

2. Take 5 minutes to remember your three best performances in this area. For example, if you selected “board meetings”, select the three meetings where you were at your best.

3. Now take 15 minutes to analyze these performances as if you were your own coach. What do they have in common? What are some of the common denominators in all of these elements? What have you done that allowed you to be at your best? Note these items. Even if you only find two things, that’s a good start.

Next time you have another board meeting, review your pre-checklist and be sure to apply what you’ve learned. Then, and this is the most crucial step, analyze your performance afterwards. What did you miss? What could you have done better? What went surprisingly well? Add these new items to your checklist to continually improve your performance.

When does this process stop? Never! Even some of the most accomplished musicians, best-selling authors, world-renowned artists, philanthropists, CEOs, and self-made billionaire entrepreneurs I know never stop improving their lists. And neither do you. INQ

Tom Oliver, a “global management guru” (Bloomberg), is the Chairman of the Tom Oliver Group, advisor and trusted advisor to many of the world’s most influential family businesses, mid-sized companies, market leaders and global conglomerates . For more information and inquiries: www.TomOliverGroup.com or by e-mail

[email protected]

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